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5 easy fixes for ailing computers

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Computers always act up at the worst times. You're in the middle of a major report or playing your best game ever and — pffft.

Often, users get so frustrated that they needlessly go out and buy a new computer or pay for a computer repair. With a cool head and a little know-how, however, it's easy to fix the most common computer problems. In fact, the solutions I recommend below are free.

Speed up a sluggish PC

Computers slow down over time — that's normal.

If your PC is fairly new and it's slow, remove the pre-installed programs, or bloatware, that came with it. PC Decrapifier will remove trial programs and other junk in a snap.

To give an older PC a speed boost, break out the CCleaner. This tool looks through Windows, Web browsers and other third-party programs for unwanted clutter and gets rid of it. CCleaner can also scan and fix errors in Windows' registry. Just make sure you allow it to backup the registry before making changes.

Grab Duplicate Cleaner to remove duplicate files that might be clogging up the system. But limit your file hunt to the Documents area of your computer. You don't want to accidentally delete important system files.

In your cleaning process, you might find programs you no longer need. Windows' built-in uninstaller has a tendency to leave fragments scattered around your hard drive. You can remove those fragments efficiently with Revo Uninstaller.

‘Blue Screen of Death'

Thankfully, Windows' dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” is getting to be a rare event, but it still occurs. When it does, it isn't very helpful in hunting down the problem.

The problem can often be traced to bad memory modules. Memory is cheap, and buying extra RAM capacity is usually worth it for the performance boost.

It's not difficult to remove and install memory modules. You'll find video tutorials at all the major online memory stores.

Remember to ground yourself when you open your computer. You don't want to fry sensitive electronics with static electricity.

Zombie spyware plague

A message pops up on your screen repeatedly, telling you to buy a security program. It happens so often that you can't get any work done.

Your gut tells you that this is a rip-off, and it's correct. The message is adware that found its way onto your system, probably through an online ad for a “free” security scan you clicked on.

If you do download — and often pay for — the security program, you'll end up with fraudware. No matter how many times you run the program it will always find the same problems and keep trying to get more money out of you.

Before buying security software, make sure it's real.

SD card in CD/DVD slot

This is one for the Mac people. If you're distracted or preoccupied, it's annoyingly easy to shove an SD camera card into an iMac's superdrive. The two slots are right next to each other on the right side of the computer.

You don't have to take the machine apart or ship it to a service center. The fix is easy. Cut an L-shape out of cardboard to use as a fishing hook. Slide it in and pull out the SD card.

Email Kim Komando at techcommentsusatoday.com.

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